A Brief History of Movie Special Effects

Everett Collection

The Ten Commandments — Water Effects
Without the help of digital effects, director Cecil B. DeMille managed to pull off one of the Bible's greatest miracles: the parting of the Red Sea. In 1956's The Ten Commandments, DeMille used the most advanced technologies he could find for the effect: matte paintings, rear projection, pyrotechnics, miniatures, water tanks — even a 32-ft.-high dam. Considered the most expensive special effect in history, the actual parting was created by pouring 300,000 gallons of water into a tank and then playing the shot backward.

Get the Latest Photos from Time.com
Get TIME photos and pictures of the week delivered directly to your inbox.